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By Jo Causon, CEO, The Institute of Customer Service

As the New Year gets under way, for many people it’s a time of reflection and resolution, with many individuals considering their current roles and careers. In fact, research shows that as many as one in five people will look for a new job this January.
This makes it all the more important for organisations to focus on genuine staff engagement to minimise the risk of losing key talent. And of course, as our research shows, there is a clear link between employee engagement, the customer experience and, ultimately, performance. Where we have high levels of engagement we have much higher levels of productivity.

But how can companies best engage and motivate their staff? I believe that it really comes down to having – and articulating – a clear sense of purpose, and delivering on this purpose. It is this that can win hearts and minds and encourage staff to go that extra mile. Yes, other factors are obviously important: salary, benefits, working conditions, career prospects – but if a member of staff feels connected to the organisation through a sense of purpose, and a clear knowledge of the part they have to play within that, then their engagement will go much deeper. It’s crucial to realise that making a profit is not a company’s purpose.

That’s an outcome of doing business, a very necessary one, but it is different from its purpose, which is usually around delivering a service or product to customers that in some way makes their lives better or easier, in however small or large a way. Having articulated this sense of purpose, an organisation must show how it is relevant to the audience they are seeking to serve. No company can be all things to all people, so it’s vital to be really clear about who the core customer base is and how the organisation’s purpose relates to them. This is also important from an employee’s viewpoint as well. Where organisations try to do too much and lose focus, they run the risk of miscommunication and confusion. The third step is that a business needs to be able to measure the impact of what they are doing. Most organisations measure inputs and activity, but it’s showing the impact that really brings everything together. This is why measuring customer satisfaction is so important. It’s the external yardstick of how well a business is actually faring. Demonstrating high levels of satisfaction is very motivating to staff.

I wrote in my last blog that employee engagement will be a key area through 2018, especially as Brexit could make it harder to recruit talent from Europe meaning that the UK’s ‘war for talent’ could really hot up. This is all the more important because I also believe that we are seeing increasing polarisation across politics, business and society.

In many organisations, it seems that there are growing degrees of mistrust or suspicion between employers and employees. Employees often feel disconnected and disengaged from the organisation, while employers sense a growing trend of staff becoming increasingly demanding and ‘wanting everything now’.

The truth is that employment is a contract and middle ground has to be found with give and take on both sides. Employers must treat staff fairly, reward them fairly, and motivate and develop them. Staff meanwhile must take some ownership and responsibility for their careers and ask themselves how they can contribute to the organisation’s purpose.

In my last blog, I also touched on what I see as the growing need for another ‘p’, personalisation. Just as companies need to engage their staff, so it is essential that they engage their customers if they are to gain their loyalty and repeat business. The key to this is personalisation, giving customers a bespoke service experience that reflects their own preferences.

Customers are yielding more and more data and information to companies, the quid pro quo for this is that they expect a more tailored service. My two keywords for 2018 therefore are purpose and personalisation. These are the attributes that will win staff and customer engagement in what promises to be another challenging year for business.

Jo Causon

Jo joined The Institute as its CEO in 2009. She has driven membership growth by 150 percent and established the UK Customer Satisfaction Index as the country’s premier indicator of consumer satisfaction, providing organisations with an indicator of the return on their service strategy investment.

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